ABC 6 Investigates: Allegations of elder mistreatment

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(ABC 6 News) – The family of an elderly Austin woman is sounding the alarm about an assisted living facility in town.

They accused the South Grove Lodge of mistreatment, altering documents, and a long list of errors when administering medication – and they’re not alone.

As Cindy Walters sits with her mom at the 86-year-old’s new assisted living facility, she doesn’t hold back when talking about the place her mother just moved out of.

“I wouldn’t put a dog in that place,” Cindy Walters said.

Lavonne Srock moved into her new assisted living facility in October.

The manager ordered an emergency admission after seeing a dark purple bruise on Lavonne’s ear.

“I was concerned something else was going to happen to her,” the manager said.

Because of privacy concerns, she asked not to be shown on camera. But, as a nurse with 17 years of experience, she doesn’t think it was an accident.

“You don’t think it was caused by sleeping on the ear? Absolutely not. It was a pressure wound bruise,” the woman said.

Lavonne used to live at South Grove Lodge formerly known as Primrose Retirement community in Austin.

For most of that time, her family says it was good. But then came a change in management and then last year, a change in ownership. The family says the level of care provided here has declined ever since.

It started with missing morphine.

Abc 6 News obtained this police report showing 56 units of morphine disappeared from the facility in October of last year. It had a value of ten thousand dollars.

“Did they find the medication?”

“No,” Cindy Walters responded.

“Did they find out who took the medication?

“No,” Walters replied.

Under Minnesota law, missing morphine should have been reported to law enforcement within 24 hours.

This incident wasn’t reported for an entire week.

Cindy and her longtime family friend Chris Hogan said this is when they started taking a closer look at Lavonne’s medications.

“I discovered there were medications where they hadn’t been given to her in a month and a half,” Cindy Walters explained.

They say these documents are evidence of a problem.

They’re Lavonne’s medical administration records, they track when her medications were given.

Another form documents Lavonne’s insulin intake at South Grove Lodge. She’s required to get two shots each day.

But there are days only one shot is documented. And days where no shots are documented at all.

Chris said one day when he questioned the director of nursing on the way she was administering Lavonne’s medication.

“She looked at me and she said you’re not the RN, I am. And I said well read what’s on the doctor’s instructions and she said I don’t have to listen to this. I’m going to call the cops and have you kicked out. And what did she do, she went and called the cops and the cops came and escorted me out of the building,” Hogan explained.

In a police report obtained by ABC 6 News, the facilities director said Chris was belligerent and yelling at staff.

“Were you being too aggressive?’

“I was upset, I might have raised my voice. Was I screaming? No,” Hogan replied.

“I couldn’t work there anymore. I couldn’t be affiliated with a place like that,” Haley Culbert said.

Haley Culbert worked at the facility for nearly three years. She says she saw residents not getting medication, cleaning not being done and food being served cold.

“It was just hard leaving them there knowing what the conditions are like,” Culbert said.

Haley said she filed a report with the state, but the response was the same one Chris and Cindy received. ‘There wasn’t enough evidence to investigate.’

“How much evidence do you need to go to a place and investigate and check things out,” Culbert said.

ABC 6 News reached out to the Minnesota Department of Health to find out how many complaints have been filed against South Grove Lodge. But were told under state law it is confidential data and the state couldn’t provide it to us.

Back at Lavonne’s new assisted living facility, there’s hope the state pays attention to what the manager here had to say.

“I’m writing you today with grave concerns…”

When people report something like this something has to be done,” Culbert said.

Which is why they’re speaking out.

“What I went through with mom, I wouldn’t wish that on anyone,” Walters said.

Lavonne Srock passed away shortly after we recorded our interviews for this story.

But her daughter Cindy says she’ll continue the fight.

Lavonne’s family isn’t alone. At her new assisted living facility, there are at least two other residents who moved there from South Grove Lodge for the same reasons Lavonne did.

Former employees of the facility also shared that they had the same accusations.

Although the state health department wouldn’t confirm it, we have been told at least two of the people in this story have now been contacted by the state which told them claims against South Grove Lodge are being investigated.